The Cardo Packtalk Edge ($699.95 AUD) is the company’s newest addition to its wide range of helmet comms, but Cardo is no newcomer.
The Cardo name is synonymous with helmet comms, which should come as no surprise given it invented the Bluetooth device way back in 2004.
The original Scala Rider was pretty amazing for its time, but its descendants benefit from a tech evolution that’s taken the product to new heights.
It’s a familiar story…I was an avowed non-comms guy. When I put my helmet on I wanted solitude and the sound of nature muffled only by a layer of carbon fibre. I absolutely didn’t want to take phone calls about unpaid electricity bills while I was enjoying riding a motorcycle.
But it all turned around for me when I finally tried a comms kit from Aldi and discovered that listening to music and podcasts while riding was kind of awesome. As was being able to handle legit calls without pulling over and taking off my helmet and gloves every time. But that cheap kit sounded like a mouse farting into cotton.
So, I stepped up to a Cardo Packtalk Bold and somehow the next morning’s sunrise was brighter than normal, I could hear the birds singing clearer than ever and friends told me my aura was shining an intoxicating hue of ebullient purple.
And from that day forward I have not ridden without a comms device.
For me being able to be reached by phone is nowadays imperative, being able to communicate between riders is less of a necessity because nobody wants to hear me constantly swearing at myself.
But listening to podcasts or books gets me through the mind-numbing road sections and pumping music can make a ride day more enjoyable. It can hype a moment beyond its barest attributes and lift you up when things are getting a bit dreary or tough.
Music is the greatest mood enhancer, but sound quality matters.
And this is one of the areas Cardo kills it. By using updated JBL speakers specially made for Cardo the sound quality is excellent.
The Packtalk Edge represents the pinnacle of Cardo’s many comms offerings. Having used the Bold some time ago and more recently the Freecom 4 and 2, it’s been interesting to return to the Packtalk stable.
My first impression was of course coloured by the new magnetic mount.
I’ve been asked about it a lot and while mounting a Cardo has never been a chore, the Air Mount is the simplest method yet. You simply approach the mount and the magnet draws the device to it, snapping it into place with no need to line it up just right. It’s pretty bloody effortless.
To remove the Edge you pull down on the front of the mount as usual but slide the Edge out instead of lifting it.
Installing the whole kit into a helmet is no drama either and I have units attached to Arai, LS2, Klim, Alpinestars and HJC helmets. A lack of a flat surface can make it a slight challenge but there’s also a clip-style mount if the sticky can’t find a home.
If you prefer in-ear speakers you can still plug into the Cardo via the audio jack.
CARDO PACKTALK EDGE TECH STUFF
Once your system is installed and mounted you can fully embrace all the tech wonder that Cardo packs into the Edge. And there is a heap.
Let’s start with the Natural Voice Operation. I use this a fair bit but I find it gets overlooked when I’m talking to other riders about how they use their Cardo system. Understanding that it’s important to be able to control the device without removing your hand from the handlebars, Cardo accepts voice commands for some of the most common operations.
You want to turn the volume up? Just say, ‘Hey Cardo, turn the volume up.’ To access Siri you just say ‘Hey Siri’ and it will answer – the same goes for ‘OK Google’ on Android phones. You can mute audio, tell it to answer a call or ask for the radio to be turned on or the station to be changed (the Edge has a built-in FM receiver).
You’ll get a complete list of commands in the packaging and being able to control the unit to that degree while staying in full control of the motorcycle is well worth remembering at least the most common.
The Cardo also constantly monitors ambient noise levels and adjusts to suit using your volume setting as a baseline. So as you increase speed and wind noise builds, the Packtalk Edge will increase volume to keep as close to the same levels inside your helmet as possible.
This means you don’t have to constantly change the volume levels yourself to match the outside noise levels.
The updated microphone is noise cancelling and I often have to explain I’m on a bike because it’s impossible to tell the clarity on the other end is so good.
The Packtalk Edge also benefits from second-generation Dynamic Mesh which is a different type of signal to Bluetooth and ideal for multiple riders sharing comms. Using the Edge, Dynamic Mesh allows up to 15 riders to share a ‘channel’ at a range of 1.6km (landscape dependant).
If one rider drops out after bolting off to fuel up, they’re automatically added again once they return to range. And you can still have a one-on-one conversation if you want to complain about someone choosing the vegetarian sausage roll without them knowing.
Also, if someone in the group uses a different brand, the Cardo will still connect with that device via Bluetooth.
The Edge utilises Bluetooth 5.2 which is the fastest, longest range and most reliable version to date which also sucks the least amount of power from whatever device is using it.
The Edge uses a USB-C input for charging which makes juicing up a pretty fast affair and the battery is ridiculous. I haven’t managed to run it down yet and I’ve stopped turning it off when I’m not needing it to conserve battery because it holds charge magnificently.
I’ll get two days out of it no worries. I’ve usually charged it as a matter of course by then, but I could probably get three and maybe more.
Another feature I love is the ability to update the firmware via Bluetooth connection to my phone. That makes it simple to keep it up to date and the Cardo app is pretty decent with some controls in there worth visiting.
I make sure High Volume is set in Audio Profiles and that Automatic Volume is set to High. I also have Eco Mode engaged which shuts down the Dynamic Mesh signal when not in use. The app also has a handy list of voice commands and a quick guide to whatever system you’re using if should need a refresher.
Finally, one point I can’t stress enough about the Cardo is how hardy they are. I’ve never had one fail and I have ridden in some epically terrible conditions. I have had my head underwater (that was a big one), I’ve hit the ground hard more than once, and I haven’t treated the units with any sort of favour or delicacy.
They just keep firing up and connecting when asked. The JBL speakers have a fine foam over them that will deteriorate over time, particularly in a helmet heading offroad and into varied conditions, but they still pump when asked. And the Packtalk Edge is backed up by a three-year warranty.
The reason why I stick with Cardo is that it’s tough, reliable and easy to use. The product keeps evolving but it remains familiar with no massive leaps of learning to use a new unit. They also back their product in a way I’ve seen a major competitor shy away from.
So, get that playlist sorted and connect to your GPS (The Packtalk Edge will connect to both) at the same time so you can find your way into the far away listening to the Bee Gees or AC/DC, Taylor Swift or whatever it is that puts you in the mood.